Tuesday 15 April 2014

Swallows and Amazons!!

First edition dust jacket cover 1930

Swallows and Amazons
 is one of my childhood favourites. While I was reading it this time I had a conversation with my sister where we were talking about it being a bit dated, and she said 'well it doesn't matter, because who wouldn't rather live in a world where you could safely send your kids off to camp on an island and sail about in a boat and not worry about them being kidnapped or whatever?'. She makes a good point, and I think that's a huge part of the appeal this book still holds for me. When I was a kid, it was full of the kinds The of things I wanted to do (and to be fair to my parents, we did a lot of them, just in a slightly more supervised capacity), and now it's full of the stuff I'd love my kids to be able to do. 

For those who don't know, Swallows and Amazons is about four siblings - John, Susan, Titty and Roger - who sail about in a little boat called Swallow one summer and go camping on an island in the middle of a lake where they are staying for the summer. On the island they encounter the two woman crew of the Amazon, 'pirates' Nancy (her real name is Ruth, but pirates are Ruth-less. love it) and Peggy Blackett and have all kinds of adventures together. 

Can we just talk for a moment about the fact that Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree series has been reissued with half the kids' names changed because apparently children today can't cope with people named 'Dick' and 'Fanny', but Titty is still happily allowed to be called Titty? Weird double standard? I don't get it. Aside from that (and the fact that Ransome continually refers to the poor baby as 'fat Vicky'. She's a baby! She's supposed to be fat!) it stood up really well to rereading. 

I was a little bit worried that, having committed myself to reading the entire series of 12 books this summer, I'd get through Swallows and Amazons and really hate it, but no. I still love it. It still made me want to go camping immediately and make campfires and go exploring. The kids didn't annoy me particularly and there was a lot at the end that I had no memory of, possibly because my overriding memory is of the film rather than the book. If you have kids and you want to encourage them to go outside and play and use their imaginations, you should read them this book. 

I've already started Swallowdale and am loving it so far. The only bad thing is that it means the ever-elusive Peter Duck is next and I can't get my sister's copy till the middle of May ;-( Anybody want to lend me a copy? 


  1. Swallows and Amazons is the reason my friend and I are planning to go camping in the Lake District this summer! I loved this series so much! I remember when I was in primary school I tried to get the other kids to play make-believe Swallows and Amazons, but they'd never heard of it, and sadly I lost them at Titty's name. (I had no idea why that was so funny.) Can't imagine her being called anything else, but at the same time, I wonder if the remake will keep it. (Did you hear there was going to be a new adaptation? I don't know whether to be pleased that it's introducing these books to a new generation, or annoyed because I don't think they could improve on the original film.)

    1. I did hear that. I'd kind of been ignoring it because I'm also not sure how I feel about it. I really do love that film! It will be interesting to see what they do about Titty :-p Apparently there was a BBC adaptation where they changed it to Kitty, so maybe they'll do that? Would be a bit weird though unless they're planning on reissuing all the books with a name change (oh please God no!!).

  2. I just saw the reissued Magic Faraway Tree - Joe and Frannie! Oh dear....

    I love Swallows and Amazons, but not read beyond it. One day... :) I'll look forward to your posts in the meantime :)

  3. WHAT THIS SOUNDS AMAZING HOW DID I MISS OUT ON IT?! Literally, it sounds like one of the better Famous Five books and I bloody loved them. (I absolutely can't deal with Dick or Fanny and HOW WRONG DOES THAT SOUND?)

    Ok, I probably need to read this right now. Oh oh oh, and just because you definitely need the trivia, there's this play by David Mamet called American Buffalo, and there are these characters called Grace and Ruth who are mentioned but never appear, and that's because the men in it are Graceless and Ruthless and I believe that to be about the cleverest thing I've ever heard.

  4. pretty nice blog, following :)